If the Cubs hire Joe Maddon? 2015 World Series Champs


That’s the impression you may get reading the news since Joe Maddon announced he was opting out of his contract in Tampa Bay. And with no job opening for a manager, the Chicago Cubs shot to the top of the list as the most likely destination for Maddon. So let’s just pretend, at the sake of Rick Renteria’s job, the Cubs make the Maddon thing happen. Could they really do it in 2015?

Just like a high-profile free agent–which essentially is what Maddon is I suppose–one isn’t going to change the direction of the team. But there is a larger dynamic with a new manager, especially one with the reputation he would bring with him.

There are a few things to really consider, as Theo Epstein and the Cubs brass are likely huddled around doing the same, looking at the remnants of the old bleachers. I mean, the bleachers were doing just fine. Nothing wrong with them. Give people a place to sit, they said. The bleachers did. Manage this team to the best of your ability Rick Renteria. He did.

So will Renteria become what the bleachers did? A casualty of change?

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First, let’s take a look at Maddon “working with what he was given” from the money standpoint. In 2008, the Rays were next to last in payroll. The went to the ALCS that year. In 2014, they were 28th. In between, it never really changed much more than that. But from 2008 on, Maddon and the Rays won 90+ games five times. How about the Cubs in that span? Just once, in 2008. They were swept in the first-round of the playoffs, and that began the decline over the next six seasons, with five of the six ending with a last-place finish.

So clearly Maddon has a knack with working with whatever is given to him. With the Cubs, he would be handed a core of prospects that had the baseball world taking notice this season. And the possibility of a few more on the way. The Cubs also have deep pockets to sign free agents this year. The talk was the need of pitching, and veterans that could help lead the young Cubs.

How much could Maddon influence that? Possibly more than you think.

Renteria is, as of now, preparing to go into just his second year as a manager. While the Cubs performed very well down the stretch, I use caution when getting overly excited that it’s attributed to Renteria. Mike Quade did a similar type job with the Cubs after taking over as the interim manager, and that finish helped get him the gig permanently. That ended very poorly.

So will free agents flock to Chicago just to be part of a “possible” winner? With a manager that hasn’t established himself yet? What if it’s for Maddon? Who has a reputation that will follow, and has received nothing but praise from player he has managed? James Shields? Maybe David Price next year? These guys aren’t going to take a “hometown” discount for anyone. But just maybe having the chance to play for Maddon in Chicago would make them consider the deal differently at least.

Jun 10, 2014; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays bench coach Dave Martinez (4) Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

This part is pure speculation, because no one knows where Maddon is going, or if any of his staff will go with him. But Dave Martinez interviewed last year for the same job Renteria now holds. He was one of the final cuts, and the reason he was in the running was the same as why Renteria was hired. Bridging the communication gap with the Latin players. I don’t know how much of a barricade to teaching this has been, but if the Cubs do believe it is, Martinez would help solve that. But there is also the chance the Rays could offer the vacated manager position to Martinez, which squashes that theory. But again, that would be a bonus to the hire if Maddon brought him along.

Winning culture. That simply is the biggest reason the Cubs must at least examine this to the very end. Maddon took a team that had no idea of what it was like to win. And in 2008, made it a perennial contender in a division dominated by the Yankees and the Red Sox. Theo knows Maddon well. Almost hired him in 2003 before going with Terry Francona in Boston. and that was before Maddon had the reputation. Then he watched as the rays went toe-to-toe with his Sox year in, year out.

The wheels for Epstein and the Cubs are churning. The silence of the organization can be read in many ways. But I feel like the Cubs are very aware of what this hire could possibly do, and why they have to remember baseball is a business. Renteria hasn’t built a sentimental following. He’s a great guy, I’m sure. But the Cubs, with the renovations to Wrigley Field, have started operating like a business. Not a historic landmark. This would be a savvy business move. And could make the idea of the Cubs winning in 2015 not so crazy after all.